This post originally appeared on lorenamesa.com.
I wake up. Excitedly get dressed (okay, not really, maybe more like sleepily), rush out the door to show up as an Election Judge. The poll I’m working is located in Humboldt Park, a neighborhood renowned for the giant Puerto Rican flag marking the entrance of Paseo Boricua.
Humboldt Park and neighboring Logan Square have seen large swathes of development, like Chicago’s 606, in recent years. These projects have invited new housing and retail development, higher rent, forced evictions, all tell-tale signs of gentrification.
As an Election Judge I am acting as a translator, offering services to Spanish-speaking voters. The 15-hour day doesn’t faze me. I have, in one way or another, been actively involved in politics and organizing most of my adult life.
The polls open; we have a line at least 10 deep.
The poll is located at a Chicago Public School. Walking into the poll the first thing you see is a Dia de los Muertos ofrenda. The corridor to the poll has signs written in innocent, children’s writing with messages like “Vote for the leader that knows how to lead” and “Girls for Hillary.” The walls are covered in sea creature-inspired murals.
A father and son come in to vote. The father doesn’t speak English. He’s also 97 years old. His son asks me if he can assist his father to vote. I nod. They get the father’s ballot and I help them get into the handicap booth. I explain the ballot to both in Spanish, pausing and reflecting how I really don’t know how to say “arrow” in Spanish. (Ballots in Illinois require you to fill a line between two parts of an arrow to indicate a yes.)
The son tenderly speaks to his father; he has what I think is a union jacket on. His hands look rugged from many years of labor. When both are ready to submit the ballot, I walk them over and instruct them how to feed it into the scanner. The father reaches out, squeezes my hand. He tells me he has never felt as proud to vote as that moment.
I’m waiting by the door of the polls. One of the core duties of an Election Judge is to make the voting experience as frictionless as possible. I’ve decided to stand by the door to guide folks to the poll as more than a few have commented they were getting lost.
Across the school lawn I see a ranchero-styled hat bobbing slowly my direction. The hat sits on the head of an elderly Latino, walking slowly but steadily with a cane. As he approaches the door, I give him directions. A few minutes later, another Election Judge grabs me. I’m needed for translation and assistance for him. I sit with him and meticulously read the ballot to him. He asks me to repeat some questions three or four times.
Students have been walking past all day. Teachers guide them past the poll, quietly explaining that “democracy is in progress.” Some older kids run down the hallway screaming “Don’t vote Trump.”
A young Latina arrives. It’s her first time voting. She has nails painted red, white, and blue. She runs eagerly into the booth when it’s her turn to vote.
15 minutes before the polls close, a Black woman rushes in. She isn’t registered in our precinct. She is eager to vote. She votes with a provisional ballot. As she submits her ballot she reflects how she could not not vote–the election is too important.
After a nearly 15-hour shift and 2 hours spent closing the poll, collecting ballots, and submitting to the Chicago Elections Commission, I’m ready to be off my feet.
My first glimpse of the election results: Ohio has just been projected to be taken by Trump.
More states are too close to call, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin.
My mouth is dry. The results are too close to call. Nate Silver’s 538 predictions keep getting tighter and tighter. I turn my attention away from the election.
I wake up. I look at my phone. Trump won.
I’m waiting for Hillary Clinton’s concession speech. Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” is looping; the stage is bare except for a few American flags and a podium.
Hillary Clinton speaks. She thanks us. She tells us to not give up. To not lose hope. That we have the rule of law to govern. That any little girl can be anything they want to be.
I really needed to cry. @HillaryClinton, what a speech 😭😭😭♥️♥️♥️
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) November 9, 2016
I’m honestly crying at work right now reading excerpts from Hillary’s concession speech. Such grace and resilience. #ImStillWithHer
— maggie (@mambr0se) November 9, 2016
— Steph (@stephygrande) November 9, 2016
Other women in the office digest amongst ourselves in a private room what has happened. These are women from different national origins, ethnicities, languages, races. Uncertainty is thick in the air.
I leave work. On my way out, a member of the building staff where I work asks me, “How are you?”.
Today, right now as I write this
So now I want to you ask you — how are you?
Peace, love, and hugs from this nasty woman to you all.
— Lorena Mesa (@loooorenanicole) November 7, 2016
[Feature image via Flickr/Creative Commons]